More progress on the education front

The effort to refill the employment pipeline with skilled technicians took at least two more steps forward this week. If we can sustain a sequence of continuous small wins, we may be able to bring manufacturing back to its rightful and necessary place in our economy.

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Our efforts to build manufacturing skills need to be directed on several fronts: young students preparing to enter the job pipeline; existing unemployed or under-employed who need to develop more marketable skills; and incumbent workers who need their skills refreshed or upgraded.

The first announcement of the week involves young students.  USA Today reported in a front page article that Bert and Ernie, the Muppets,  have decided to introduce STEM skills into their Sesame Street programming.  Helping pre-school children understand and like Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math will go a long way to advancing the rankings of US students compared to their non-US counterparts.  US rankings are now embarassing.  Getting young kids hooked on math and science will lead to their eventual entry into engineering, science, technology and manufacturing jobs.

The second announcement of the week, made on Tuesday at Pack Expo, has potential impact across all three categories of students and workers.  The National Association of Manufacturers, through its affiliate The Manufacturing Institute, has recognized the Mechatronic Certificate program advanced by the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (PMMI) and developed in cooperation with the Mid-Atlantic Mechatronics Advisory Council.  This program is being added to The Manufacturing Institute's Skill Certification System.

In June of this year, President Obama announced the goal of credentialing 500,000 community college students with skills certifications aligned to manufacturers' hiring needs, and cited The Manufacturing Institute's NAM-Endorsed Manufacturing Skills Certification System as a national solution.  Having the PMMI program included in this system will put it at the forefront of national policy making.

Last month I reported on the fact that the Commonwealth of PA is already qualifying schools to teach the competencies required for a student to sit for the PMMI suite of tests.  This puts PA and PMMI at the head of the pack as we strive to bring advanced technical skills to the packaging industry.  High schools, community colleges and employers all need a nationally recognized transportable credentialing system to recognize skills achievement.  We have moved a giant step closer to realizing that result.